Helping the body regrow nerves: New strategy for restoring nerve function

by Miles O'brien
Helping the body regrow nerves: New strategy for restoring nerve function
People with paralysis and other physical disabilities are walking again due to the development of a robotic exoskeleton. It is the creation of Homayoon Kazerooni, a robotics engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and his team of researchers. Their work focuses on the control of human-machine systems specific to lower human extremities. Credit: NBC Learn, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and National Science Foundation

Combat, cancer and accidents—all can cause devastating nerve injuries. Sometimes, the body heals on its own.

"Your , the ones in the arms and the face, have an inherent ability to regenerate, but only under ideal circumstances," says University of Florida biomedical engineer Christine Schmidt.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Schmidt and her team are working to restore when injuries are more complicated. Surgeons can sometimes move a nerve from one part of a patient's body to another. Schmidt has developed a method that grafts cadaver tissue onto the damaged area to act as a for nerves to re-grow themselves.

"This medical application has been made possible by developing new methods and by understanding how cells interact with their surroundings," notes Friedrich Srienc, director of the Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering program in NSF's Directorate for Engineering.

Schmidt and her team are also looking at other approaches to directly stimulate nerve growth using as building blocks the natural sugar molecules found in the body. That would eliminate the need to transplant tissue. While the ultimate goal in nerve regeneration is reversing paralysis, Schmidt says intermediate successes, such as improving lung or bladder function, can be invaluable to patients and their families.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New tissue engineering breakthrough encourages nerve repair

Jul 08, 2013

A new combination of tissue engineering techniques could reduce the need for nerve grafts, according to new research by The Open University. Regeneration of nerves is challenging when the damaged area is extensive, and surgeons ...

Race to nerve regeneration: faster is better

Oct 03, 2011

A team of researchers led by Clifford Woolf and Chi Ma, at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Boston, has identified a way to accelerate the regeneration of injured peripheral nerves in mice such that ...

Recommended for you

How the body fights against viruses

17 hours ago

Scientists of the Max F. Perutz Laboratories of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, together with colleagues of the ETH Zurich, have now shown how double stranded RNA, such as viral ...

Fast way to measure DNA repair

22 hours ago

Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources, including environmental pollutants, ultraviolet light, and radiation. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, ...

Protein expression gets the heart pumping

Apr 22, 2014

Most people think the development of the heart only happens in the womb, however the days and weeks following birth are full of cellular changes that play a role in the structure and function of the heart. ...

User comments